Results are in the Eye of the Beholder

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At one point or another, we’ve all heard a version of this story:

A king brings six men into a dark building. They cannot see anything. The king says to them, “I have bought this animal from the wild lands to the East. It is called an elephant.” “What is an elephant?” the men ask. The king says, “Feel the elephant and describe it to me.” The man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope, the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch, the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan, the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall, and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. “You are all correct”, says the king, “You are each feeling just a part of the elephant.”

Sometimes it may feel like we’re all speaking a different language when it comes to measuring results or communicating success. The finance group and C-Suite are often focused on ROI and other tangible revenue-related outcomes. The sales team may be more concerned about lead generation, though, and your team is likely concerned about yet another metric.

When all the numbers are worked out, some teams may see success while others do not. The revenue-generated may be off the charts, but the sales team may not be happy with the lead generation.

So who’s right?

The answer is the same as in the elephant fable: everyone is right because everyone has a different frame of reference or context.

It’s easy to look at your own metrics and leave it at that, but we have to remember how all of our work can affect the rest of the organization. Ideally, each campaign should be measured based on needs from all affected departments, who have already told you what metrics they want to measure and how to plan for it.

It’s more likely that you will have to cater to other teams after the fact and be able to show success or value based on various different scales. While this may not always be the case and sometimes it will seem impossible, there are steps you can take to lessen the panic when the sales team comes knocking asking for results.

Consider who will care and ask for advice. When building a new campaign, consider all teams and departments who will likely care (whether they know it yet or not). Proactively reach out, explain the campaign and ask what results they may be interested in seeing. Try to get them on your side and help you plan to measure what they will want to see.

When in doubt, make an educated guess. If you just can’t get sales or finance to return your calls or respond to your emails, make a guess. Don’t take a stab in the dark. Find that report from a campaign last year that included sales metrics or ask a friend who has worked with the finance team before. Try to find as much information as you can and predict which metrics may be the most important.

Stand your ground and use your goals. When all else fails, be prepared to defend the metrics you measured based on your goals. If a campaign was run for the purpose of growing awareness, for example, defend your metrics that show how many consumers were reached and how many remember your brand. When finances comes knocking looking for revenue numbers, explain why they were not included for this campaign. Measurement should always depend on goals, so stick to your guns.

How do you measure for multiple perspectives? How do you keep everyone happy?

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  • http://twitter.com/John_Trader1 John Trader

    Good post Rebecca, and a good illustration of the difficulty behind interpreting differing opinions on what metrics matter most when executing campaigns. One idea that has worked for me in the past is to gather together the groups affected by the campaign in a single room (or alternatively conduct an online poll) and ask then if they had to pick two metrics, which would be the most important then archive the results. Granted, results of this survey may differ from campaign to campaign but you will undoubtedly see some common themes recurring in the aggregate. That way, if you do have to make an educated guess in the absence of feedback, you can make that guess with some historical perspective of what these departments have valued in the past.

    • http://rebeccaadenison.com Rebecca Denison

      That’s a great idea! Taking a survey or asking a group for their top two metrics is a great way to prioritize and make sure everything is addressed as needed.

  • Megan

    This is a great post.  Even as an undergrad I see this struggle in my courses.  I am currently taking one marketing course, one public relations/communication course, and one Web design course among others.  Depending on which class I am in and which mock-campaign I am developing, there are different goals, tactics, and measuring tools I must use or defend.  

    • http://rebeccaadenison.com Rebecca Denison

      Have you noticed any overlap? Which metrics would you likely recommend as priorities for any given campaign (from all perspectives)?

      Also, I’m so interested to hear what you’re learning these days. I graduated about two years ago, but it seems like already the curriculum has developed significantly.

      • Megan

        There is most definitely overlap! In each year of my undergrad it has been this way, and it has really given me confidence in my education.  Depending on the project, most courses push reach and/or frequency.  Some campaigns which aim at small audiences obviously will not need an enormous reach, but frequency then, is key.  In my upper level marketing/advertising courses another big measurement is CPM/CPP, Cost-Per-Thousand and Cost-Per-Point.  This one drives me nuts though because I like accurate numbers, and pricing variables are nearly impossible to forecast! 

  • Caleb0228

    Excellent story, and extremely true.  This works well for every aspect of public relations.  I immediately thought of the public relations firm.  There are so many different areas in a PR firm.  All these sectors see things differently, and they must work together to create a common image.  Definitely going to use this in my future quests for understanding. 

    Currently I am in a Fraternity that is making its way back to Missouri State University and I can definitely see this post being relevant to us.  Not only with the anecdote at the beginning, but with the measuring outcomes portion of the story as well.

    • http://rebeccaadenison.com Rebecca Denison

      Glad you found the post useful! PR agencies definitely have this issue, as do large corporations with many, many moving parts.